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Dinner

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Jesus Christ was saddened but not shocked upon hearing the news that his producing partner, Mel Gibson, was arrested on a DUI the night before. After all, the two just finished dining together moments before the incident.

In the ebb and flow of Hollywood collaborations, things usually go to shit. Still, one might have expected Gibson and Christ to buck the trend. After all, their first film grossed $8.32 bazillion world-wide. Then the DVD jumped off the shelves at Thanksgiving and shot through the roof at Christmas before leveling off on Purim. Yet, their dinner of Thursday, July 27th, was rife with tension, according to a mid-level development executive who surreptitiously filmed the Christ-Gibson meal with a Panavision 24 P Digital Camera attached to an 18-foot boom mike.

"I don't know what 'rife' means, but there was oodles of tension," said the executive, who chose to remain anonymous because of a required spinelessness clause in his contract.

Hollywood insiders, a perpetually lackluster bunch, report that in the past two years, the only contacts between Gibson and Christ were obligatory phone calls: Christ calling Gibson on his wedding anniversary in June, Gibson calling Christ on his birthday in August. Aside from these niceties, Gibson and Christ engaged in a steady stream of petty sniping which soon gave way to grand sniping until Christ made it known that he wanted to resume petty sniping.

Finally, Christ decided it was time to bury the hatchet. On Tuesday, July 25th, after walking a few laps at a friend's pool, he called Gibson to arrange a meeting. When his phone rang, Gibson was with his realtor closing escrow on the purchase of Haifa, but he took the call. After saying "Mel, it's me," Christ suggested dinner at an industry haunt in Malibu. Right there, Gibson knew his partner had gone "inside baseball." When Gibson arrived at lunch wearing a cross that could anchor the QE II, Christ sensed that Gibson was "full of himself."

They entered the restaurant just as the LAPD's Hadassah Club prematurely finished its bi-weekly meeting due to being nine men short of a minion. At the maitre'd stand, Christ commented that Gibson wasn't as fat as he looked on TV. Gibson didn't let that little dig bug him. He'd long ago settled on a simple mantra for all Hollywood meetings: I'm Mel Gibson. Who the fuck are you? This meeting was no exception.

As they sat down at a corner table in the middle of the room, Gibson chatted amiably about having his house painted. "I had a mob of Guatemalans working at my place for a month," he said, laughing. "I swear, it was like the Latino version of 'Straw Dogs.'"

Christ didn't find this funny as Latinos are a big part his fan base. Gibson profusely apologized, saying, "Look, I have an idea for another film."

Christ shot back: "So do I."

Gibson: "Okay, you go first."

Christ: "No, you go first.

Gibson: "Okay."

Christ: "No, you go first."

Gibson imperceptibly screamed at the top of lungs, then launched into his pitch: "Actually I got this idea from my father. It's another 'based-on-a-true-story' concept. This time it's about an all-Jewish polo team in the Warsaw Ghetto."

"Polo?" Christ said. "Like, with horses and mallets?"

Gibson nodded and put the idea into terms Christ could grasp: "It's 'The Pianist' meets 'National Velvet.'"

Christ thought a moment and and said, "A movie like that, aren't we just asking for trouble?"

Gibson waved and said, "Hey, if you're not part of the final solution, you're part of the problem."

Gibson didn't want to believe that Christ already sold out to the risk-averse pandering of the major studios but then, he'd seen it happen a million times. Hell, he thought, even Ice Cube is like a step away from doing a Lifetime movie.

Christ expressed further doubts: "I just don't see how my character fits into a World War II movie. Okay, maybe we toss in some flashbacks... but still, would my character be likeable?"

Gibson took a sip from his second vodka and Clorox, then cleared his throat, "Actually, there is no role in this film for 'your character.' I mean, obviously, 'your character' figures into all things. But as a stand-alone character in this film... no."

Christ couldn't believe what he was hearing and said as much: "I can't believe what I'm hearing. I mean, what happened to you being my personal Leni Riefenstahl?"

Gibson glanced at his watch, wondering when the apocalypse would come. Then he said, "Look, at the end of the day, I just don't think there's enough additional sado-masochistic stuff to say about your character."

Not long ago, Christ swore to deliver a punch in the mouth to the next show business person who used the phrase "at the end of the day." But now, Christ thought: "Hm, I did make a promise to myself but still, punching Mel Gibson in the mouth in Malibu seems like such a bad idea. Boy, this self-doubt... it never ends."

Though a dismal thought, it led Christ perfectly into his pitch: "Look Mel, the last film we did covered a few measly months of my life. What about my early years? It's not like, before I turned thirty, I was some preppie on a trust fund. I was confused."

"Really..."

"Are you kidding? I was all over the place."

"So you want to do a prequel?"

"Exactly: 'The Ambivalence Of The Christ.' I already wrote a treatment for it and gave it to a producer friend last week. She called Monday morning and said it was the best thing she'd read all weekend."

Gibson was about to shrug his shoulders but his cell rang. He made a mental note to shrug his shoulders later, then took the call. It was Frank Gehry who was redesigning Gibson's guest bathroom and had a question about the steam shower. The call lasted just over twenty minutes, during which time, Christ seriously considered just bolting up and driving off to see the new Almodovar film at the Magic Johnson Theaters.

When Gibson finally hung up, Christ didn't even look up from his menu. Gibson absently took a bite out of the shot glass housing his third Drano Gimlet.

Finally, Christ said, "Is there nothing here for someone with a fast metabolism?"

Gibson wanted to say, "Hey, did I pick the motherfucking place?" But instead, he said, "The Lake Superior Whitefish is nice."

Christ looked up and said, "Why do they have to call it Lake Superior? It's so arrogant. I mean, they're all Great Lakes."

Suddenly, Gibson was on his heels: Where's he going with this? Gibson had a theory that, when backed into a corner, Christ would talk drivel, knowing that people had a habit of buying into it.

"Look Jesus," Gibson said, "there's a lot of pressure on what we choose as a follow-up project."

Christ nodded. "I know. Last month, I looked into adapting the book One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez but the studios said I'd have to cut it down it to two hours of solitude."

Gibson was taken aback at hearing that Christ had tried developing a project on his own and said, "Is it cold in here?"

Jesus said, "No."

Gibson said, "Yes it is. Look, I can see my breath."

Jesus said, "You're smoking a cigarette."

Gibson looked at his hands. He was smoking. Well, that did it. He had no choice but to totally cave. "Look," he said, "messenger me your'Ambivalence...' outline. I'll check it out."

Christ smiled and took a sip of Pellegrino. Gibson ordered a glass of Rustoleum for the road and wobbled to his feet.

Christ said, "Are you okay to drive?"

Snappish, Gibson snapped, "What are you, my savior?"

They left the eatery together with just one word passing between them: Christ yelling "Lights!" as Gibson drove off in his Lexus. The next day the news of Gibson's arrest broke along with talk of boycotting Gibson's films. This would, of course, jeopardize the "Ambivalence..." project. But then again, with the right budget and a commitment from say, Hillary Duff, all would be forgiven.

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